What can you do if someone is not exactly using your information to commit identity theft, but has hijacked some of your personal information? Is there such a thing as “sort-of identity theft”—or is that like being “half pregnant?” A reader wrote us with that dilemma:
What if someone is intentionally using your phone number and/or address on credit applications, documentations, etc. to avoid creditors?
I have sorted things out with the major card companies, collectors, and others that this is not me, but every 3-4 months calls start coming in again as more credit is issued to this person who does not pay. My credit report is fine. One card company told me to contact the FTC who told me they could not do anything as I have not been damaged (other than my time) over what she is doing.
I have had the same phone number for 15 years and do not want to change it. What this person keeps doing is wrong. Any advice?
So maybe this isn’t a clear-cut case of identity theft since the thief apparently hasn’t tried to use your Social Security number or credit information to get loans. But still, using your phone number and address on credit applications is a type of fraud. While your credit information may not be currently mixed up with this person’s, there’s a chance that could happen in the future if she doesn’t stop.
Victor Searcy, Director of Fraud Operations for Identity Theft 911, warns: “It is very difficult to stop this kind of thing.” But he does have suggestions for what you can do.
For Both Phone and Mail
Start a file where you keep copies of correspondence, notes from phone calls with creditors etc. Gather as much information as you can about the perpetrator such as name, real address or phone number, etc.
File an identity theft report with the Postal Service. You could also file a police report, but Searcy thinks that at this point notifying USPS will be just as effective.
For Phone Calls
When creditors or collectors call, let them know you have filed an identity fraud report and instruct them to stop calling you. If the calls persist, change your phone number to an unlisted number you only give out to those you know. True, it will be a hassle, but it may be the only way to stop the calls.
“I have seen some people deal with this for months and years before finally giving in, so I would do it before I got too aggravated,” says Searcy.
Just be forewarned: Collectors may use “skip-tracing” services to find delinquent debtors and your new phone number could show up as being associated with your address. That’s why you want to use an unlisted number and only give it out to people you know.
There is still another option you might consider. Find out whether the company that provides your phone service offers a call screening feature. With that service, calls will only go through if the caller identifies himself and you accept the call. Automated calls rarely make it past that stage.
Image: Neil McIntosh, via Flickr